Comparing the (Display of) Results in Colorado

Mitt Romney lost badly last night. No way around that. But as I watched the results come in through various sources, I noticed two interesting design decisions that made me think; one from the Guardian (the British perspective), and the other from the New York Times.

Using only Colorado as an example, here is the map of county results by the Guardian.

Results map from the Guardian
Results map from the Guardian

Note how the map is presented in 3-D that therefore allows the use of height as another encoded variable, in this case the size of the lead. Now compare that to the map used by the New York Times.

Results map from the New York Times
Results map from the New York Times

Note how this map is flat. So much less cool, right? But try to compare the results in Denver County. When I look at the Times’ map, I see blue; Mitt Romney won. When I look at the Guardian’s map, I see…actually, I can’t. That label is in the way. And then even when I begin to interact with the map, Denver County is hidden by the height of Arapahoe County.

But what about the size of the lead? I cannot see that encoded in the New York Times map. No, one cannot. However, they added a toggle function to change the data displayed on the map—though the utility of that view can be left for another discussion.

And now to a minor point about comparing the totals.

Again, a look at the Guardian’s presentation.

Results table from the Guardian
Results table from the Guardian

And now the New York Times. Numbers are numbers and faces are faces. But look at the graphic element representing the percentage. With the Guardian, I can just barely discern that the size of the circles for Santorum and Romney are not the same. And the same goes for Gingrich and Paul. But when I look at the Times’ presentation, I see a simple bar chart that more clearly shows the relationships between the results.

Results table from the New York Times
Results table from the New York Times

So interesting design decisions lead to one view that I find far more successful in showing the data: the New York Times.

Replacing the Bay Bridge for the Long Term

Bridges are vital parts of infrastructure networks connecting two separate pieces of territory, but often they can be choke points. Damage to a bridge can result to isolation at worst and at best long, circuitous reroutes that add significant time to travel. In the San Francisco area authorities are building a new bridge to replace the current Bay Bridge. But as everyone knows, buildings and infrastructure in that area can be significantly damaged during earthquakes. And the area is waiting for the ‘Big One’ that shall come some day or another.

So how to build a new bridge for the long-term that will also survive a major earthquake? The New York Times explains it in an interactive piece accompanying an article. The interactive piece includes an animation with voiceover explaining the details of the design, with diagrams illustrating the components placed next to the video player. At the bottom, anchoring the piece (pun intended), is a photo-illustration of the new bridge’s design.

Diagram explaining the Bay Bridge replacement
Diagram explaining the Bay Bridge replacement

Credit for the piece goes to Mika Gröndahl and Xaquín G.V.

Punxsutawney Phil’s Day in the Sun

Groundhog Day. It’s Punxsutawney Phil’s day in the sun. Or not. Depends upon the year.

Anyway, the Philadelphia Inquirer did a small piece about the history of this famous little groundhog from remote northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Past Prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil (Alliterate that.)
The Past Prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil (Alliterate that.)

Credit for the piece goes to Cynthia Greer.

Florida Primary

The Republican primaries…they’re still going on…on the long inevitable road to Romney’s coronation. Next up is Florida, always an interesting state to watch. There are a lot of people there with a whole host of interesting demographic slices. Perhaps one of the most interesting ones, at least to the media, is the Hispanic vote. Other things to look at in Florida include the burst housing bubble and rather high unemployment.

The New York Times published a graphic with a few maps and charts trying to paint the landscape of the Florida primary battle. These two selections below show which Republican primary candidates won which counties in 2008 as well as the size of the Hispanic population registered Republican.

Florida primary landscape
Florida primary landscape

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park.

Fresh Water Bulge in the Arctic Ocean

The BBC has an article on a discovery of a growing bulge of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean. The top of the article includes a large set of graphics that explains the story below and links to an animation. The animation depicts the growth of the Arctic ice sheet from the pressure beneath and plots the height of the ice.

The fresh water bulge in the Arctic Ocean
The fresh water bulge in the Arctic Ocean

How the Costa Concordia Sank

The Costa Concordia sank nearly a week ago, but the questions of exactly how and why she sank will likely linger for much longer.

The BBC has had extensive coverage of the story, including this page that details what is known about how and why the cruise ship sank.

How She Sank
How She Sank

School’s Out For Ever

While on holiday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced a sweeping series of school closures and consolidations in an effort to create a smaller and more sustainable school system. As I spent my earlier years of education in the parochial system I had more than a passing interest in the story.

The Philadelphia Inquirer mapped out the changes, a cropping of which is below. As one can easily see, the bulk of the cuts came in the city itself and the suburbs in Montgomery County. The more distant, read wealthier, suburbs fared much better. Chester County, for example had a total of only two closings. Bucks only five.

Cropping of the School Closures in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Cropping of the School Closures in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Credit for the map goes to John Duchneskie and Cynthia Greer.

Earth-sized Planets

Kepler 20 System
Kepler 20 System

We have finally discovered two planets outside our solar system that have roughly the same size as Earth. Unfortunately, unless we learn that life can exist in the form of fire beings, these two planets are too close to their sun to support life. Their temperatures are in the hundreds and thousands of degrees. A bit balmy.

The New York Times has a small but interesting chart that fits inline with its article, at least on its website—presumably it fits similarly in its printed form. Seen here to the left, it plots the orbital distance of the planets that are known to orbit the star Kepler 20. (Unfortunately these planets have less than creative names: Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f.) The other planets are gas giants.

The use of scale of orbits and the gap between 20f and 20d allow for an annotation within the image. And then with a little bit more vertical space, to drive hom the point of these new planets’ nearness to their sun, the orbit of Mercury, the planet nearest our sun, is plotted for comparison.

Killed in Action in Iraq, State by State

The Iraq War is over. And now it is time to reflect on what we have gained and what we have lost. This map by the Guardian details the number of soldiers killed in action in Iraq. (Other options include total wounded, killed by non-hostile, &c.)

Killed in Action in Iraq by State
Killed in Action in Iraq by State

Unfortunately, I call it a ‘no kidding’ type of map. The data, accessible via the Guardian here, corresponds nicely with a list of states by total population. Of the top ten countries in KIA, only Virginia is not among the top ten in population; it is 12th. The country thus not in the top ten in KIA, but in population is North Carolina. It’s rank in terms of KIA? 11th.

The data is interesting and worth depicting if we are to reflect. But, perhaps a more suitable visualisation could have been chosen.

On a personal note, these Google Maps overlays are annoying when, in the cases of, e.g., Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the shapes are incorrect. Perhaps coastlines are not as easy as states with ‘straight lines’ for boders, but we would do well to try and make irregular coasts at least somewhat correct.